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Royal Marines at the tip of the spear on largest military drills in the Southern Hemisphere

4 August 2023
Royal Marines were at the tip of the spear during the largest military exercise in the Southern Hemisphere.

The UK’s Commando Force are ramping up their presence in the Indo-Pacific and, after a mission to South Korea earlier this year, were deployed to Australia – embarking on helicopter carrier HMAS Adelaide – as 13 nations demonstrated their combined military might.

In amongst more than 34,000 troops, Royal Marines strike teams from 40 Commando carried out surveillance, reconnaissance and strike missions, establishing a foothold inland to pave the way for larger forces to land ashore on Australia’s eastern coast.

Crucially, the intensive training – known as Exercise Talisman Sabre – helped build trust and the ability to seamlessly operate together, meaning allies are better equipped to respond rapidly to global challenges.

The exercise took place across five states and territories, with much of the maritime elements taking place off the coast of New South Wales and Queensland in an area the size of mainland Europe, testing joint capabilities across land, sea, air and, less tangibly, space and digital.

Major Aran Sandiford, the Company Commander leading the UK Commando Forces on the exercise, said: “The opportunity for UK Commando Forces to integrate with like-minded, specialist reconnaissance and raiding forces, really is invaluable.”

“As well as being a fantastic chance to develop shared tactics and practice operating alongside key partners, deploying Commandos into the Indo-Pacific is one of the best ways of demonstrating the Royal Navy’s continued commitment to the region.”

Royal Marines have taken part in Talisman Sabre since 2019 and are increasingly deployed to the Indo-Pacific, as the UK works with allies and partners for the security and stability of the region.

The Commando Force presence couples with the long-term deployment of HMS Spey and HMS Tamar to the Indo-Pacific.

“It sends the right message that the same members of the UK Commando Force exercising here this month, were also deployed to the Korean Peninsula in March,” added Maj Sandiford.

“The UK Commando Force were here in force in 2021 and, more recently, a number of the partner nations here for Talisman Sabre worked together to extract their citizens from Sudan, during the evacuations in April this year.

“There’s a really strong sense across the multinational force that we’re amongst friends.”

With more than 150 personnel from the Royal Marines, RAF and British Army deploying to Australia it was the largest UK contribution since Talisman Sabre began in 2005.

RAF Support Force based at RAF Wittering provided logistical support, providing 40,000 meals for over 600 personnel alongside their Australian counterparts.

Electronic Warfare from the British Army’s 14 Signals Regiment, 4 Regiment Army Air Corps, observers from 4th Battalion Ranger Regiment and UK Space Command attended for the first time, signalling a growing intent from the UK.

Joining the hosts Australia are the UK and USA, Canada, Fiji, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of Korea, and Tonga, with military personnel from India, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand observing the exercise.

Exercise Talisman Sabre is a complex and ambitious exercise which involves risks, as the tragic loss of an Australian helicopter at sea on 28 July has reminded. UK personnel assisted in search and rescue efforts for the crew and the Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin sent his condolences to his Australian counterpart for the tragic loss of four Australian Army soldiers.

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